ALT Summit 2012


I sat at the table and picked at the cream table cloth on Friday afternoon. I counted the stains, rearranged the pitcher of water a few times, and unwrapped a candy I didn’t eat. My ears pulsed and my face felt hot, so I made sure to count my deep breaths in Spanish to ensure I was taking my time. Uno, dos, tres… I felt like Dora the Explorer. Just two days earlier I felt the same way, but the circumstances were slightly different.

When I walked into the tightly packed room of ALT Summit speakers on Wednesday night, I texted JD: I’m Going In. I didn’t know a single person, but I promised him I would attend the mixer because I was determined to get out of my comfort zone, a zone that is usually demarcated by the lines of my sofa and a pint of ice cream. I shook a few hands, introduced myself, made small talk, but then I hit a wall. My ears pulsed and my face felt hot, so I got all Dora. Uno, dos, tres… When I realized I was by myself on the periphery of the room, I noticed the following coaster…

…it was then when I realized if I wanted to feel comfortable, I needed to be behind my camera. Sure, it was a cop out (it’s easier to see life through my viewfinder), but for this introvert, it was a big deal. I stayed a bit longer then hailed a cab back to the hotel, promising myself to be braver the next day at registration.

It was my first time attending the ALT Summit, so I was pleasantly surprised to be surrounded with hundreds of other designers/creatives/bloggers who loved all things lovely. Rooms were decorated by sponsors and tables filled with goodies for people who think one can never have enough stationary. It was cuteness overload.

The two and a half day summit is comprised of keynote and breakout sessions covering a myriad of topics for creatives and I found myself scribbling pages of notes. Of course, no one spoke about photography (there were just a few photographers in attendance), but I found it valuable to learn what other industries were doing and learning the art of creating content. I was forced to look at things in new ways and I loved the challenges it presented…I really felt so lucky to have been invited.

One of the keynote sessions I thoroughly enjoyed was The Relationship Between Traditional and New Media panel, hosted by Martha Stewart’s Pilar Guzman, the Wall Street Journal’s Deborah Needleman, and Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan of Apartment Therapy, moderated by Gabrielle Blair. It was awesome to hear perspectives from both print and online media outlets, and the trajectory of each in regard to content, advertising, and reader response to each.

Okay. So. This picture? It’s not the best, but I promise, it’s a big freaking deal. And I’m betting my mother just gasped at the notion that I used “freaking” on my blog. She’s praying for me right now, but before I repent, I need to explain the gravity of this moment. This is Dooce, otherwise known as Heather Armstrong. I started reading her blog in 2005, when I was stuck in law school and downright miserable. Life was almost unbearable at the time, but I somehow stumbled across her site and I was hooked. Even during my darkest days (leaving law school, sitting with my mom during her chemo treatments, being jobless), her posts brought a smile to my face. In a weird way, she gave me the permission to write about myself and life on the web…something that would later redefine my entrance into the photography world.
When I discovered she was slated to be a panelist at ALT, I made sure I arrived early just to stalk maybe say hi. When I walked into the ballroom, she was standing in the back and I almost fainted. No, really. It was UNO DOS TRES time, Internet. As the room quickly filled, I realized that if I wanted to say hi, I’d have to do it then…so…I did. Kinda.
It’s all one, big blur, but I think I said hi. Or something loosely related to a salutation. I wanted to say everything…to tell her thank you…to say I adored her dogs and daughters (HELLLLLLLO CREEPY!)…to say her newly growing out hair looked great. But only managed a whispered, Hi, can I take a picture with you? Way. To. Go. That’s all I managed, but seeing how I went to a mixer by myself for 25 minutes AND approached a girl crush in the same week, I cut myself some slack.

This is Pinterest‘s CEO, Ben. Ben doesn’t need a last name because he’s so awesome I feel like he’s my friend after his amazing presentation. Oh, you know, my friend, Ben. I walked away so inspired from his life story and business approach that I wanted to tuck him in my pocket and bring him home with me.

On Friday afternoon, I had the distinct pleasure of hosting the Building a Personal Brand panel with Cassandra Lavalle and Camille Styles, moderated by Hunter Sebresos. I had a wonderful time getting to know this group of amazing people and it was an honor to share a stage with them.

Many thanks to my good friend Promise Tangeman for capturing photos of the presentation…

I was overwhelmed and honored by the warm ALT response…for those who attended, thank you. From the bottom of my heart. Thank you.

I’m going to end this post with this picture…one of my favorites from the entire summit. My entire trip was made beyond perfect because of my roommates…in moments of complete social awkwardness, they saved me. We stayed up late and had great conversations, pushing me me to think bigger and hope for more.
Liz of Liz Designs Things, Kirsten of Simply Grove, me (obvi), and Promise of Promise Tangeman.

Happy Tuesday!